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July 1998, Volume 5 Nr. 11, Issue 59

Mediacracy and the Puerto Rico Strike

An Associated Press report of June 28, 1998, by Sue Bruel, entitled, "TV Viewers Across Mainland Treated to Presidential Debate", is testimony to historic changes taking place in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). For two hours, viewers around the world, and most dramatically, the Chinese people themselves, were witness to a two-hour public summit between presidents Bill Clinton and Jiang Zemin. This red, white and blue collaboration with the red, was followed by an unprecedented press conference between the two leaders.

The Chinese people heard Bill Clinton speak about the Tian'anmen Square crackdown, human rights, freedom of speech and expression. Bruel reports that this was the first time that the Chinese had heard a foreign leader speak out against the 1989 suppression of the student uprising.

In response to Jiang Zemin’s statement that the crackdown was necessary in order for China to "maintain the stability" that it has today, President Clinton stated, "I believe, and the American people believe, that the use of force and the tragic loss life [in Tian'anmen] was wrong" and that, "Freedom promotes stability."

One would be hard pressed to argue with the North American President. Yet, while Bill Clinton was participating in a major event, an opening up of the world’s most populous country, exactly the opposite was taking place in "the land of the free."

On the same day that Jiang and Clinton were making history for all the world to see, one would be hard pressed in the land of the free press, to see, listen or hear of the events unfolding in Puerto Rico. This beautiful island, a commonwealth of the United States, and one of the last remaining colonies on planet Earth, is home to a suppression of its own.

While a hundred thousand people marched in opposition to the privatization of the telephone company,

Over the last ten days, the Puerto Rico police have deployed massive armed power against the pickets in front of the facilities of the Puerto Rico Telephone Company.

This show of power has led to bloodshed to such an extent that both Fermín Arraíza, president of the Puerto Rico Bar Association (Colegio de Abogados) and Luis Aulet, the Presidente of the Puerto Rican Commission on Civil Rights, have claimed excessive use of force on the part of the police. The bar Association has posted lawyers on the picket line in order to prevent the violation of the people’s constitutional rights. The telephone workers are not alone. Showing solidarity, the Electrical Workers Union (UTIER) went on a three day strike; the Aqueduct Workers Union (UIA) walked out for 24 hours; the Teamsters stopped working in the ports.

Not Much News

While the Presidents of China and the United States were holding their press conference, news and information of the Puerto Rican people’s action and the police brutality was hard to find in the "freest country in the world." There was no coverage of the 1,200 delegates from Puerto Rican trade unions and community organizations, who voted by acclamation to approve a "national strike" of all workers in support of opposing privatization. There was no special TV coverage of the assembly of the Comité Amplio de Organizaciones Sindicales (CAOS- Broad Committee of Trade Union Organizations), which met in the town of Carolina, that brought together the delegates from more than 60 unions.

For over a week, I searched the homepages of "The New York Times", the Associated Press, The Nando Times and performed did Internet searches with various search engines. I could not find any reference to the Puerto Rico strike and turmoil. You would think that in a free society with a free press, the public display of police brutality would make headline news. Should not such a major event merit daily coverage? Not, perhaps, if it means that world’s most powerful and visible proponent of free speech and tolerance were about to embarrassed. This is one lesson that has been clearly learned from the Vietnam war: don’t report it and either it will not become an issue or, it will go away. At least, during the Vietnam war, reporters and reporting agencies were somewhat willing to go and get the story in order to let the people know what was going on. Today, all that has changed. Even if such reporters were to still exist, the almost complete ownership of the press by transnational corporations prevents any story which significantly threatens the established capitalist order and interest from being aired or printed.


There is so much emphasis these days on the "free market." This highly touted major accomplishment of neo-liberalism, however, has a hidden agenda. One cannot simply purchase air time to advertise a product or message. If that were the case, then Adbusters magazine’s revealing and provocative uncommercials would make it onto the television screen. Even Ross Perot with his millions could not buy the time that he needed to get his message across to the American people during the 1996 presidential campaign.

The argument used against Adbusters purchasing TV time in the free market is that the uncommercial does not present a message of a sort that the corporate owners want to promulgate.

Green the White Mountains

Consider for a moment that the United States is shortly heading into the new millenium presidential sweepstakes. Yes, the executive elections of the year 2000 are almost upon us. In less than two years, the free market reporting industry will converge upon New Hampshire, the state touted to be the bellwether of "who’s who" and "what happens next" in American presidential politics.

We’ll witness small town New Hampshireites, glowing in the corporate media limelight being praised as political clairvoyants. What a show! And, we, the gullible electorate, those less than 50% of us who bother to vote (and even less who pay attention) will be swayed by the news coverage of an insignificant event which has a staged outcome of monumental proportions. In other words: why bother?

Consider, The Nation, issue dated July 20, 1998, and the revealing statement,

…New Hampshire, the state where in less than two years fewer than one-half of 1 percent of America's Democratic voters will play a staggeringly disproportionate role in determining their party's presidential nominee.

Granted, New Hampshire provides the free marketplace, as currently defined by corporate pundits, much opportunity. The hype, attention, increased revenue in the White Mountains from thousands of breakfasts, lunches, cocktails, dinners, bumper-stickers, banners, buttons and hotel accommodations, all makes good business sense. Perhaps, that is the point.

How can such a disproportionate number of Democrats, fewer than ½ of 1 percent, merit such intense and immense free media coverage of a political almost-non-event, when Ross Perot, with all his money can be shut out of the democratic process with all his money.

If Perot’s millions have had little chance of reaching the people, then third parties and progressive ideas have none. In fact, there is no mechanism in corporate America for the free exchange of ideas. The reason? Threats to the established order and the rich ruling elite, that is, anything that takes away from profit, is to be avoided.

New Hampshire is but a game. The Democratic primary in the White Mountains is but a clever strategy modeled after successful sports reporting to bring the largest numbers of viewers to commercial advertisers while at the same time attempting to make the average Joe Citizen feel good about his "participation" in the democratic process.

Reasonable Expectation

The transnational inner circle of the world’s richest people are growing paranoid about threats to their ever increasing but, much more visible and noticed globalopoly. Any anti-or alternative voice (which has not been coopted) no matter how small, is seen as having the potential of being heard and growing. Thus, the voices are ignored in the calculated risk that they will go away.
One can hardly sell the products of mass consumerism by giving time to groups and messages that espouse anti-consumerist messages contrary to the consumption ethic. That is the recognition that, we, the people need to come to terms with.

Any thinking person needs to accept what we can expect from the profit driven media. One thing is certain. We can expect the self-serving mediacracy to continue to serve itself. To think otherwise, that is to believe or even to hope that transnational corporations will have the best interests of the citizenry at heart, is truly naïve. In Edward S. Herman and Robert W. McChesney’s book, The Global Media, The New Missionaries of Corporate Capitalism, they write,

The commercial model has its own internal logic and, being privately owned and relying on advertiser support, tends to erode the public sphere and to create a ‘culture of entertainment’ that is incompatible with a democratic order. Media outputs are commodified and serve market ends, not citizen needs."

I’m writing this the evening of July 7th. I read about the original strike in late June, but, still, scouring the major news outlets find nothing. There is no discussion, a la Monica Lewinsky, of the issues, protest, action and beatings leading up to it.

GTE, with sales revenues exceeding $23 billion is one of the largest telecommunications giants in the world. It is easy to see how the global media, through the mechanics of the free market, via pressure from major advertisers, would do little to get this story out. And, GTE is a major advertiser. It is reasonable to expect that giant corporations intent on expanding their giantness will behave like giant corporations expanding their giantness.

How Giant?

The mediacracy, of course, include all forms of mass communication, including television, radio, newsprint, books and the Internet. In the past ten years, giant has become gargantuan. Mergers and acquisitions, taking place at a breathless pace, have created companies so big in scope, that many have resources greater than most countries in the world, and the clout that goes along with it. Paul Kurtz, in his piece, "Secular Humanism vs. The Global Mediacracy" published as an editorial in Free Inquiry, reports upon the 1997 sales figures of the top three media giants:
  • Time/Warner$24,620,000
  • Walt Disney$22,470,000
  • Bertelsmann AG$14,000,000
Most people have never heard of Bertelsmann. This German company owns the following publishers: Bantam, Doubleday, Dell, Knopf. Its recent acquisition of Random House, if approved, will make it the publisher of one-third of all trade books in the United States.

Kurtz reports that Rupert Murdoch, of the News Corporation, now owns HarperCollins. In addition, Murdoch owns Fox and its affiliates, newspapers worldwide, satellite and television companies in the U.K., Asia and the United States. Perhaps, Murdoch himself is the best example of how big influence can be. The Rupert Murdoch information page on the Internet has him quoted,

For better or for worse, our company (News Corp) is a reflection of my thinking, my character, my values.

Just what are those values? Here are few:
  • $1 million in donations to the California Republican Party, $750,000 of it in the last days of the election.
  • $200,000 to the "Yes on Proposition 226 Campaign" (California) which places restriction on union funds spent for political purposes.

Would a man who obviously opposes labor and the labor movement, and who owns The New York Post in a town with a large Puerto Rican population, cover the anti-privatization happenings in that country? I think not. Simply put: giant is as giant does. Kurtz writes,

Most of the towns and cities in the United States have only one newspaper left; most of these are owned by national chains.

In conclusion, the media giants are not in the business of informing, though they would like us to believe so. Unfortunately, many people believe that reporting is factual and informative.

The market dominated media not only seek large audiences through entertainment, at the expense of the public sphere; they tend to water down entertainment to avoid a depth and seriousness that might interfere with the commercial message. They also exclude materials that the audience might want to watch [hear or read - ed.] but which might stir up controversy to advertisers."

What to Do?

Recently, a friend said to me that Metaphoria speaks to the converted. Perhaps. Yet, I cannot help but believe that the more progressive voices there are, the more opportunity there will be for the free marketplace of ideas to flourish. These ideas include the single lone voice with an idea - any idea.

The free marketplace of ideas has a home on the Internet. Metaphoria and many other voices reside there. Anyone with the technology can have access to the millions of people worldwide who use it (at least for the moment). It is, in fact, where the major sources of information for this and most of issues of Metaphoria come from. It also provides me with prime sources of learning about what goes on in the world.
I do not rely upon CNN, Reuters, FOX or other corporate voices for my news. They will, as stated, only give me what I expect and don’t want. Instead, I’ve set up a favorites list on my Internet browser where I can easily read and access my chosen sources of information from the free marketplace of ideas. Amongst them, I read about the situation in Puerto Rico on the people’s strike homepage. And, as a consequence, I notify my friends, relatives and neighbors through every means at my disposal.

Such action requires research and time. Though time and commitment need not be major, a free democracy requires citizen participation. And participation requires that in lieu of doing something else, we involve ourselves in free inquiry and the democratic process. Instead of watching the mediacratic news, we can visit non-governmental (NGO) sites on the web. We can visit LaborNet, EcoNet, PeaceNet, etc. For information on the Puerto Rico anti-privatization strike (and other major labor issues, news and information), really a rebellion against neo-liberal globalization, one can go to:

We can bookmark this website and the many other links contained therein and elsewhere. Consider setting up your own homepage with links to these and other sites that circumvent the dominant media.

Most activist websites have links, which when followed, lead to information on how to easily and quickly send email, regular mail and FAX to relevant individuals involved in a particular event or crisis. For example, the Puerto Rican strike homepage provides the access to direct communication lines to all the major governmental players including governor Pedro Rosello. There is a listserver one can subscribe to where communiqués will automatically be sent to email addresses.

We should not rule out short-wave radio. For an investment equal to the cost of an inexpensive stereo, you can purchase a portable short-wave radio which will allow you to listen to the other voices in the world, many unfettered by the transnational corporations. While Rupert Murdoch may not cover the Puerto Rican national strike, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Radio Havana (RHC) do.
Short-wave presents an opportunity to weigh a vast variety of national positions and opinions against each other - something which one is hard pressed to find in the corporate media. How else can one make informed decisions?
We’ll See

Notice how little mainstream coverage of Indonesia there is today in the United States. One would think that the crisis in that country has been resolved. It has not been. There are many other countries undergoing similar difficulty. And, Puerto Rico is not the only country with major strike activity. South Korea is another hotbed of labor activity. It remains to be seen how much and what sort of coverage the Puerto Rico strike receives. I for one, am not holding my breath.

I’ll end this issue with a section from PNEWS, delivered on the usenet newsgroups which sums it up quite well.

The Nonexistence of Imperialism

by The Golem

While Washington policymakers argue that US overseas intervention is necessary to protect "our interests," the press seldom asks what "our interests" are and who among us is actually served by them. As we have seen in regard to Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, and other cases, defending "US interests" usually means imposing a client-state status on nations that might strike a course independent of, and even inimical to, global corporate investment. This is rarely the reason given in the national media. Rather, it is almost always a matter of "stopping aggression," or "protecting" our "national security," or punishing leaders who are said to be dictators, drug dealers, or state terrorists.

References may occasionally appear in the press about the great disparities of wealth and poverty in Third World nations, but US corporate imperialism is never treated as one of the causes of such poverty. Indeed, it seems the US press has never heard of US imperialism. Imperialism, the process by which the dominant interests of one country expropriate the land, labor, markets, capital, and natural resources of another, and neo-imperialism, the process of expropriation that occurs without direct colonization, are both unmentionables. Anyone who might try to introduce the subject would be quickly dismissed as "ideological."

It is late in the afternoon of July 7, 1998, an important day for the people of Puerto Rico, which I’ve been told is part of the United States. Thus far, nary a word in the mainstream media. I suspect that the national strike, like The Golem states in PNEWS, will too, be dismissed as ideological. I believe however, that like the huelga (strike) homepage states, this is but "the first hurricane of the season." Don’t look for it on the evening news.


Bruel, Sue. China News Digest. "USA/CHINA: The Power Agenda Itemized"
[ 9806304896/hl1.html
Accessed, 3-July-98.

GTE. About GTE
Accessed, 7-July-98.

Herman, Edward S. and McChesney, Robert W. The Global Media, The New Missionaries of Corporate Capitalism. Cassell (London and Washington: 1997).

IGC Internet. Labornet Headlines. "PUERTO RICO: Call for National Strike Wins". 
[ 9806304896/hl1.html
Accessed, 3-July-98.

Beckstead, Keith. Rupert Murdoch Infromation Page.
[ 91/
Accessd, 7-July-98.

Nichols, John. The Nation Digital Edition, "How Al Gore Has it Wired." 
Accessed, 6-July-98.

The Golem. PNEWS. "Michael Parenti and ‘Inventing Reality.’" Usenet Newsgroup: Reference:

© 1998 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

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